Saturday, January 31, 2015

Introduction

"Not many of us know what it's like to become the perfect version of ourselves."- Eddie Morra.

Those words, uttered by Bradley Cooper's character in the 2011 Limitless, stuck with me. It was before the movie had even come out. The trailer was all that it took to inspire me. The movie was about slacker Eddie Morra, a writer, who was going nowhere in his life. Maybe I identified with him because I wanted to be a writer. Maybe it was because I was stuck in a rut in my life when I watched that trailer, but the concept that the trailer presented inspired me: being the perfect version of yourself.

In the movie, Eddie takes a pill that enhances his mental capacity. It allows him to think and learn super fast, and even access his most obscure memories. Due to his increased mental capacity, Eddie begins to expand in all areas. He gets fit, finishes his book, gets into stock marketing, gets rich, and gets his life straight. He even runs for Congress. (None of this is a spoiler, but I am not endorsing the movie either. Especially not as a family movie. I simply want to highlight the tag line, and the concept of growing in all areas of life.)

Take a minute to imagine what it would be like to improve in all areas of your life. What would it be like to be the best version of yourself? What would you do with a higher IQ or more knowledge? What if you were actually as healthy as you wish you could be? What could you do if you understood the influence you have on others? What if you could have your dream job and if money were no problem? Perfection in five of the core areas of life: intellectual, physical, social, occupational and financial.

Take a minute to imagine that, and then I need you to snap back to reality. Sadly, I must inform you, we will never reach perfection. However, that does not mean we shouldn't try to improve. For anyone who has studied the history of western civilization, you might remember the Greek value called "arete", which is the pursuit of perfection. We may never reach perfection, but let us continue to improve in all areas of life. This year I want to focus on six of them.

1.Religion- if you are not religious, there is still stuff in my blog for you, so hold on. This area could be as simple as your philosophical "presuppositions" or your view of life. How do you answer the big questions? I will explain how this area affects everything else we do in my next post, so stay with me. Religion can also include any religious practices, such as praying or meeting with other believers.
2.Intellect- of course I can understand how an atheist may want to include religion (presuppositions) in this category. What information is in your head? How much of the information is true? How much is false? How well does your brain work? What is your ability to think and reason, figure things out, and memorize them? Can you think critically? How do you ask the right questions? This area is arguably the most important. You need your intellect to choose your idealogical path, to know how to keep yourself healthy, to improve in your career, and so forth.
3.Occupation- this area is about more than employment, it's about what you do with your time.  On one end of the spectrum is your hobby, which benefits you, and probably only you. In the center of the spectrum, your job is about mutual benefit: you provide people with a product or service that they want or need, and they give you money (which you want or need). On the other end there is volunteer work: work that you do for others with little or no benefit for yourself.
4.Finances- Now don't let anyone make you feel guilty about this. Money is not evil! We all could use more money, but you don't want to choose money over people. "People are made to be loved and things are made to be used. The confusion in this world is that people are being used and things are being loved." With more money you can donate more money, you can spend more money (which keeps people in their jobs), and you can have nice things for yourself. So it's important to work hard (but not too much) to make money, and also to be able to manage the money that you make.
5.Social- because what good is a life without friends. You can be religious, you can be the smartest, you can be the healthiest or the wealthiest, but without friends life is depressing. Not only that, but we all have influence over the people we interact with... just by default. What kind of influence are you on others? Good? Bad? Or one they could do without?
6.Health- as I've stated before this area is not my strongest suit, but it's still important so I'm still going to tackle it. You only have one body, so we must take care of what we've been given.

I want this blog to be all about wisdom, and this year particularly about growing in all areas of life. Naturally we will have one or two areas that we excel in, and it's good to have a specialization. However, while we improve in our specialties, we must also grow and improve in other areas. So if you are interested in pursuing perfection for yourself, join me on this journey.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Setting Goals

Why set goals?
Why should you set goals? This blog series is about many things, but it is chiefly about rising above mediocrity. Whether you live an average or above average life, I want to inspire and encourage you to continue growing in your life. Always continue to move forward in life. That is why we set goals: to challenge ourselves to move forward.



We all have dreams. Even if we forget about them, don't talk about them, or suppress them, we still have them. What are your dreams? What are the things you wish you could do? Take a minute and think about them.



Some are skeptical of this talk about dreams, and they have good reason to be. Many people take this stuff too far. You must have a dose of realism in this subject. You cannot fly! I am not selling some idea that you can do anything if you just believe. That being said, I think that you and I can do more than we give ourselves credit for.



Dreams are like clouds in the sky, and your goals are like a ladder to get you to them (or closer to them). Goals are more realistic than dreams, and each goal accomplished is a step up the ladder, closer to your dream. This post is based largely off of a chapter of EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. The second chapter is all about setting goals, and it has become a huge part of my life these past couple of years. The book is on being a leader and an entrepreneur. If this post, or leadership in general, interests you I would highly recommend the book. (http://www.daveramsey.com/store/prodentre.html?ictid=elbookpg)



Wheel of Life
Another theme in my life right now (which will also be a big part of this blog series) is growing in all areas of life. What are the different areas of life? I don't believe there is an exhaustive list. However, the book lists seven areas that Zig Ziglar calls the "wheel of life". This wheel has seven spokes: Career, Financial, Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Family, and Social. I have my own list, which is a bit different.
  1. Religion/Spiritual- your fundamental beliefs and practices
  2. Academic/Intellectual- knowledge is power! (or at least it's helpful)
  3. Health/Physical- taking care of your body
  4. Occupational- what you do with your time: hobby, job, or volunteer
  5. Social- your relationship with others*
  6. Financial- managing your money
*I include family inside the social spoke, although I can understand where some might want to keep them separate.



I will go in depth on each of these "spokes" in later posts. Remember, in this wheel of life, if you leave one side of the wheel flat – you have a flat tire. We all have one or two areas that we are good at, and we also have one or two areas that make us cringe. "Well that area is not important," we tell ourselves.



On the contrary, each area is important. We may have one or two area that we are proficient in, but it is important to grow in each area. Religion is your fundamental presuppositions about life. How do you answer the big questions? Is there a God? What is the nature of man? Where did we come from? We must think carefully about these questions, as they will impact how we see everything else, and how we act. The intellectual spoke is important because no one wants to be seen as an idiot. Therefore we must be constantly learning and thinking (deeply) in order to keep our minds sharp. The intellectual area is probably the easiest area for me, with an interest that bleeds into the spiritual area.



Conversely, the physical aspect has been my least favorite, but I am getting better. There are plenty of reasons for keeping physically fit, but for me the main reason is that improved health can also improve memory and thinking skills (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110). I think most people don't realize that a career is not just important for a paycheck, but also to provide mutual benefit between yourself and society. Also it is important to have and manage your money, because more money isn't good or evil, it simply means having more opportunities. I will cover each of these spokes in later posts.



Goals must have four things in order to work
New Year's Eve is the time where we make promises to improve ourselves, which we never actually keep. Why? Well, I believe that our resolutions are missing a few things. This year, instead of making vague promises you will never keep, set specific goals, to really improve yourself.



I have been doing this for a couple years now, so I can say from experience: the more seriously you take this, the more you will get out of it. Set new goals every year. Then each month set new goals within your annual goals. Then within that, set new goals for that week.



Goals that work must...
  1. Be specific and measurable
If you say "This year, I resolve to lose weight", it's not the same as saying "I'm going to lose ten pounds this upcoming year". The first statement is vague. How much weight are you going to lose? You could lose a milligram and meet your goal, then just gain it back for lunch. No real change has been made. Your goals must be specific if you want to move forward.
2. Have a time limit
So you want to lose ten pounds? That's not specific enough. Adding a time limit helps make them more specific. It also helps you stay focused. Let's say you want to lose 120 pounds this year. You can set a goal to lose ten pounds each month, and one-third of a pound every day.
Of course these numbers are simply for example, but are you beginning to see how being specific makes your outrageous dreams into feasible goals?
3. Be your own goals
It must be your own goal. Not one that someone else set for you. It must be something you want to do (even for someone else), not something that someone else wants you to do. I've made the mistake of setting goals for other people... I don't think they ever kept my goals for them. "My wife wants me to lose weight," is not the right mentality to have, "I want to lose weight for my wife," is better. It is nice to do things for others, but if you live your whole life on what others want you to do, you will be miserable.
4. Be in writing
This one is probably the simplest, but most overlooked. A study by the Dominican University (http://cdn5.sidsavara.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/researchsummary2.pdf) shows that you are significantly more likely to accomplish your goals if you write them down. This is supported by common sense. I believe there are two reasons. First, if you don't write them down you will forget about them. Our memories are simply fickle like that. Second, it serves as a powerful visual reminder. I have my goals written on an excel spreadsheet, which I review every week to check off. I also have a list of daily goals on my phone. I erase each goal as I accomplish them. When you check off or erase goals, it motivates you, because you can visualize your progress!




So there you have it. Now set some resolutions (I mean goals) which you will actually keep this year. Make sure you are setting your own goals, that they are things you actually want to do. If you can, set goals in all six areas of life. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and have a time limit on them. Then, write your goals down.